Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Phnon Penh, Cambodia. This was Tim’s fourth trip visiting local churches and schools in the capitol city of 1.5 million people, as his company supports and sends funds to organizations on the ground. Being this was my first time in Cambodia, I found myself absorbing everything that I saw; the colors of the fresh fruit, the shades of brown from the dirt roads and bland colored cement structures, the stories told in the eyes of all the young children and the pungent smells from fermenting trash strewn alongside the roads. Every sense of my body was overwhelmed as it engaged with the community we visited. I was surprised I wasn’t overwhelmed with the environment we quickly were immersed in catching rides in a tuk tuk and dodging many scooters and cars to our locations. Organized chaos doesn’t come close to the mayhem that is found in the capital streets.
Often, when you visit a land without all the rich amenities you find yourself living with at home (sewer systems, regular garbage pick up, properly stored food, clean toilets, education for all ages), you can make plans to, in a haste, create ways to better a society offering food, clean water or a better way of life. When you fight a culture of historic conflict and lack of education, these plans don’t gain much traction in a matter of a week or so. It takes hands on schooling to the young and old in order to create authentic change. I toured an organization that does just that; prevents, rescues, restores and reintegrates women caught in the slavery of child sex trafficking. Agape International Missions provided a tour of their buildings in Svay Pak, infamously known for child prostitution, that completely shattered my existence as a wife, mom and daughter. I saw and heard things that I was never humanly able to comprehend or willing to understand prior to this visit. I stood where selfish acts of lust-hungry men preyed on girls as young as five years of innocent age. Across the street from one past brothel, was another and another.
“If there were to be a place where all hope was lost, this would be it.”
As our tour continued, we walked through employment centers where as many as 85 women sat behind sewing machines diligently mending shirts together; upstairs a daycare for children whose mothers were working below and a screen printing room for other shirt orders. There was a medical clinic offered to the community with staff that volunteered their time and skill to meeting the needs of those in the area. A gym sits in the middle of the community offering a safe place for young men to lift weights as AIM staff begins and ends with a time of devotion and prayer with worship music infiltrating the atmosphere. An English class is taught after a day shift ends for rescued women to learn, but also to provide, more safe haven for them to have. I was so impressed with this ministry as they first met the needs of the community in a relational way and secondly, have done it with the grace and forgiveness God asks us to show to our friends and enemies.
I left not knowing how to express what I just learned about. I sat silent as tears flooded my cheeks; my husband unsure exactly how to process with me. Sure, I had watched movies, read stories and listened to stories of Tim’s past trips in regards to this ministry, but nothing can prepare you for walking in the very spot heinous acts of crime were committed. The redeeming character of this story came at dinner when we learned that just that morning, 22 girls ages 6-17, were rescued from a successful raid.
“In a place that seems hopeless, a crack in the ceiling broke open.”
You may wonder why I share this glimpse of our trip with you. Well, here is why. Many companies and small businesses are blessed with excess profits at the end of the year; some have a little more cushion in their monthly budget projections. It is those that have extra room and for the businesses that feel they want to do something beyond their purpose I present a challenge to. Research ministry organizations that are much like AIM, where you can get behind and assist in the monthly funding of their ministries. Look into products you can purchase with a purpose and a story, rather than mass production at the cheapest price. Owning a business is hard work. Being able to see a small portion of the profits bless others makes the long hours, stressful meetings and endless bookwork worthwhile at the end of a day.
How to Get Involved:
1.) Check out Agape International Missions at www.agapewebsite.org. For a few dollars more, you can have business shirts made and shipped from an employment center located in this Cambodian community. Some may not notice, but others will see the AIM logo and ask what it’s all about providing a great way to introduce a customer to a business through a powerful story and ministry. Email Vanda Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can get your business involved.
2.) Talk to your staff, board members and family to see what organization would best fit your business and company purpose or mission statement. Ask yourself how much you can donate, how you see yourself getting involved and to what extent you want to bless others. Maybe it’s finding a local organization to partner with or a local church to work with as you use your profits to bless others. See if any of your strengths can be used as a mentor for others in the same field. It was very apparent during our trip that the skills best linked to leadership were never taught and the lessons my husband has learned in a leadership role became beneficial to local pastors in need of guidance. It doesn’t have to be international; it should just be something.
3.) Educate yourself Know the needs of your own community and those outside your own zip code. Get involved with the organizations you feel passionate about. Inform your employees about the portion of profits being placed into charity; allow them to feel they are part of something special. I’m not a huge fan of that word, “charity”, but some may get uncomfortable with the term “missions.” Charity feels like a forced action of do-good rather than an action out of want and selfishness. Ask yourself why you are helping others before you write a check. Nothing about this past trip was out of attention or personal need. It was spurred from God giving my husband a call to go and us walking in obedience through our faith to go. I agree with those who say, “It’s those who bless others that are more touched than those who are blessed.” I experienced this myself as I left feeling genuinely fulfilled after meeting new faces, sharing my story, handing out suckers to children and surveying daily life in Cambodia. You can read more about our trip at www.thebroersmafive.blogspot.com